DANVILLE - City officials will now begin operating under a new per diem policy for their meals when traveling on city business rather charging such expenses to city credit cards.
Aldermen approved Tuesday night a new per-diem policy for city employees who travel for city business, including conferences and training seminars. The council also approved hiring Ruyle Hullinger and Associates of Peoria for an $18,000 fee to study creating a new Tax Increment Finance district along East Voorhees Street in an industrial area of the city. Aldermen did not discuss funding for Downtown Danville Inc. Aldermen Steve Nichols, who wants the city to restore its $30,000 in annual funding to DDI, said he wanted to address the issue at Tuesday night's meeting, but not all of the aldermen who support that cause were in attendance. Three aldermen were absent, Lois Cooper, Ward 2, Rick Strebing, Ward 2, and Mike Puhr, Ward 5. Nichols said he now plans to address the issue at the city council's next meeting April 17.
In the last several months, aldermen have discussed the city's current policy of allowing employees to charge meal expenses to city credit cards when traveling. Aldermen Bill Black, Ward 7, has argued that credit cards can be abused and has lobbied, along with Rickey Williams Jr., Ward 1, for a per-diem policy.
In the past, city employees would charge meals and hotels to city credit cards and then turn in all receipts for those charges for verification by department heads and then by City Comptroller Gayle Brandon. No alcohol is allowed to be purchased on city credit cards.
Under the new per-diem policy, a city employee would be provided a $28 a day for food at an event within 60 miles of the city, and for events outside that range, the daily per-diem would be determined by the U.S. General Services Administration's per-diem rates.
But Williams said he still wants city employees to turn in receipts to city administrators showing how much they spend on meals, so they can't pocket the extra money if they don't spend the entire per-diem amount. Black also said he would prefer that employees still turn in receipts for all their purchases.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said that is essentially the current policy with the credit cards. Alderman Steve Nichols, Ward 6, said that's basically the same policy the city has now with charging meals to credit cards and requiring receipts be turned in and verified.
Williams said his intent with requesting a per-diem policy was to set a limit on how much can be spent on meals. Black said he's fully in support of a per-diem policy rather than allowing city employees to charge meals to credit cards, but he still wants employees to turn in their receipts, so the public has a record of exactly how much an employee spent on meals while traveling.
Later in the discussion, Eisenhauer asked for clarification from Williams and Black on their changes to the policy, and both said they want employees to turn in receipts but they don't expect them to give back to the city whatever part of the per diem they don't spend. The council then approved of the changes and voted 11-0 to approve the new per-diem policy.
This new policy will not eliminate the use of credit cards by city employees. Each department head has a city credit card that can be authorized for use by other city employees for day-to-day purchases, and petty cash is used for very small day-to-day purchases as well.